Catching Up – Oil Painting

Interior oil painting  12 x 12 inches     See Pricing

Please contact me if you are interested in this or similar artwork.

I never paid that much attention to people chatting in restaurants until I started taking reference photos of them. Now, when I’m painting the scene, I become obsessed about what they’re saying and thinking, like they’re my own little characters in my own funky little play.

I know. I need to get out of the studio more.

On that note….I will be doing some plein air painting down south for a bit so I’ll be posting some little plein air gems from last year…


These artwork was created on: Linen Panel
Medium: Sennelier, Gamblin, Michael Harding and Richeson Oil Paints

Downtown A2- Cityscape Pastel Painting

Pastel Cityscape painting    16 inches x 20 inches   See Pricing
Please contact me if you are interested in this or similar artwork.

This piece was painted on a warm gray Pastelboard on which I brushed an extra layer of Golden Pastel Ground.  I wanted to play with the fractured light happens in nocturne city scenes and this substrate makes a perfect foil for that type of affect. We don’t see anything REALLY clearly at night. Just impressions…

Close-up details

This artwork was created with:
Paper: Pastelboard coated with pastel ground
Medium: Rembrandt Pastels and Sennelier Pastels

Painting Larger…Over Time

I am not a very patient person. To be truthful, I ALWAYS want immediate gratification. Working on any project for a long period of time tends to frustrate me, and I often loose interest halfway through. I think that may be why I am so enamored with painting en plein air: quickly sizing up an outdoor scene and putting it on canvas, all within 2-3 hours.

But over the years I’ve been training myself to create larger studio paintings. That means I need to plan ahead and put in concentrated time on composition, under painting, color choices, values…everything that goes into a good painting. Because while I don’t morn a failed 2-hour, 9 x 12 inch plein air painting, I am really sad when I screw up a 2 by 3 foot artwork that took me weeks to complete.

And patience. I have to continually work on patience.

I don’t have photos of all of the steps for this piece, but I can tell you that I started on a large 36″ x 24″ piece of UArt 400 grade pastel board, my fave. (When I’m working large in pastel I always work on mounted paper to avoid warping and wrinkling. Even if unmounted paper stays flat while I’m painting it, it often buckles under glass over the years. And my galleries get very cranky about that.)

I made a pastel gradation from cool pink on the top to warm yellow at the bottom by lightly scumbling those colors on the surface, and then smoothing them down with a piece of foam. I sketched in my composition with vine charcoal, making sure I was happy with the placement of everything.

Then I took a dark NuPastel and blocked in the darkest areas and brushed them down with denatured alcohol. I let it sit for a day before I come back to it.

The next step (above) was to start softly laying the colors that I wanted to peak through the final layers. (Thinking ahead right? Generally, cooler colors fall back into the distance and warmer colors come forward.) I also brushed some of them down with alcohol. Now I had a pretty permanent, dark under painting to build the rest of my work on. And that dark layer wouldn’t contaminate the lighter colors I added later.

Slowly (ARRRRGGGHHH!) over about 5 or 6 days, I added additional layers of color. In oil painting, that technique is called “glazing” and I think its an appropriate term here as well. New color applied my not be the exact final hue desired, but it adds to the overall depth of the scene. And in a waterscape like this one, depth is good. And it takes TIME.

Looking at a painting over multiple days allows the piece to morph and become itself, both in my mind and on the board. Areas are adjusted and finessed. Some elements appear while others disappear. It is a more contemplative process than I had previously been used to.

I’ve also found that my larger paintings seem have a “longer life” than some of my small, quickly painted pieces. I often have them photographed professionally and make them available as giclee prints on paper or canvas.

I’ve even had art consultants request 100’s of prints at a time for hotel and cruise ship rooms. (Please contact me if you are interested in the original painting or prints.)

So not rushing a piece of work has been a good thing for me. I’m sure that some day this slower process will become almost intuitive. Although I can’t imagine that I’ll ever be the type of artist who works on one piece for months and months at a time.  But what’s that old saying…”Never say never”…?

Only 2 spots left in my April Pastel Workshop in Ann Arbor..Sign up soon!

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This artwork was created with:
Paper: UArt Pastel Paper mounted on board
Medium: Rembrandt Pastels and Sennelier Pastels

Painting from photographs

Seascape oil painting  24 x 30 inches     See Pricing

Please contact me if you are interested in this or similar artwork.

#1 Challenge while painting in the studio…

Painting from photo references. A photograph NEVER resembles the scene that you see on site. Photos blow out the lighter colors to almost pure white and shift the shadows way too dark. Every part of the view is in exactly the same focus in photography, so the tendency in the studio is to put it ALL down on my canvas. Our eyes don’t see that way. When we shift our vision to a specific subject, that object is in focus, but everything else is less detailed and sharp. A photo also captures only one second in time, but when I’m plein air painting, I am actually influenced by everything that happens during that two-hour block of time: wind, sounds, smells, heat, clouds, bugs, passersby…

So how to combat all those issues? First, I choose a focal point BEFORE I start painting and make that area the”hero,” while other areas have less prominence. That may mean adding or deleting elements to reinforce what I want the viewer to see. I never paint from other people’s photos. There’s no way I can feel what that day was like because I wasn’t there. When I take my reference shots, I consciously try to remember everything I can about the scene so that I bring that back to the studio. I paint the dark areas in the photo lighter and full of color, and bring tone and hue back into the lighter portions.

And I try, really hard, to STOP before I think I’m done to keep some of the haphazard freshness of plein air painting.

These artwork was created on: Linen Canvas
Medium: Sennelier, Gamblin, Michael Harding and Richeson Oil Paints

Waters Edge Oil Painting

Seascape oil painting  20 x 16 inches     See Pricing

Please contact me if you are interested in this or similar artwork.

Every winter I work in my studio on large oils and pastels. Its a struggle for me because I so love the spontaneous, lively, quick application of paint that happens when I paint outdoors. With only about two hours to capture a view, my plein air strokes are fast and furious. They are not without thought, but they are without angst. And outdoors, I know when I am done: when the light changes and the scene no longer looks like the one that originally inspired me.  Somehow, for me at least, it feels like a simpler way of painting.

In the studio I have endless time to question my composition, my motives, my colors and values, my edges…heck everything. With no sun racing across the sky, I can fuss at a painting for days, trying to reach some level of perfection that doesn’t really exist. One of my biggest goals as a painter is to try to bring the looser, more assured techniques that I use in the field, into my studio work.

To reach that goal, there are (at least) 3 challenges to overcome. I’m planning to explore them in upcoming posts.

1. Painting from photo references.

2. Painting on larger surfaces.

3. Painting over longer periods of time.

These artwork was created on: Linen Canvas
Medium: Sennelier, Gamblin, Michael Harding and Richeson Oil Paints

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